Dancing grass – Yilan, Taiwan

yilan taiwan dancing grass
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur originally from Vancouver, Canada

The day after my birthday celebration my local friend and I met at the Taipei Mrt station of Guting at 8:30am. From there we caught our hour and half train ride out to Yilan. Prior to this trip a couple of locals mentioned that Yilan had natural beauty.

I did’t have time to plan as I usually do, but my friend had a chance to speak to my other local friends to give us some guidance. (Thanks Tina and Riwen).

We decided to get some brunch at a vegetarian buffet near the train station. For 100nt we had a delicious veggie buffet. All the good dishes started to come out at lunch. After we decided to rent a car nearby for about 1300nt for the day. Public transport is not as extensive as Taipei and we were there just for day for heavy camera gear so we thought the car would be handy. We rented a 4 door mini automatic car with a 1.3 liter engine that was capable of 100km/hr. Good enough. Armed with my iPhone, google maps, and a 3g internet connection from taiwan mobile we eventually settled on our next stop at plum blossom lake.

On our ride we passed by western style houses with green dancing grass that reminded me of areas in Bali. It was nice just to see western houses in Taiwan, which I haven’t seen in a year. Plum blossom lake has a flower shaped lake. It started raining hard so we took shelter by a food stand with a delicious lean pork grass wrap. Look at the pics they so more than I can do than words.

After we went drove up to the Sancing temple which took 15 minutes. I drove as close as I could to the temple and was happy to get free parking. It featured an awesome view of the lake and city. The temple itself was impressive and reminded me of the Forbidden city architecture especially with the animals on the roof. With my friend Serena sheltering me and my camera I managed to get some footage. the rain quickly stopped and cleared up. The weather in Taipei and Yilan changes very frequently throughout the day in May.

We had already used up most of our day and had just enough time to make it to the Su-ao area. We managed to take some pics of the Su-ao cold springs and the Su-ao port for some great shots. We rushed back to the car rental to catch our train and passed by the Luodong Night Market.

As I wrap up this blog I realized that Yilan will require more time to fully appreciate its beauty and what it has to offer. Special thanks to Serena for making the trip happen.!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required



Your Interest(s)

Email Format


Bali Indonesia – an experience in words and media

Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur originally from Vancouver, Canada

May 12 2014

Bali is a good travel destination if you’re in search of tropical vacation and are already in Asia. The prices aren’t too expensive, food is good, and there are interesting cultural experiences. Beyond Bali there are many other destinations in Indonesia. For example, the Komodo islands are home to good diving and the komodo dragons.

Our plan was to visit Bali Indonesia and head over to the Komodo Islands to visit the mythic Komodo dragons.
We stationed ourselves in the proclaimed upscale area of seminyak, bali. My friend and I were happy with the the modern spacious loft from Clio . It is a great value and great location. I spent many hours and days researching  accommodation in Seminyak so you can take my recommendation and save yourself the time if you like.
The area of Seminyak was not as luxurious as I had imagined in my mind. True there were upscale and trendy shops, but compared to Yaletown Vancouver Seminyak is still undeveloped. It is an experience dealing with the high figures like 100,000 rp for a massage, 20,000rp for Bintang bear, 80,000rp for sun beds by the beach for 2 people all day.

If you are in Seminyak the Seminyak square was the central landmark in town and where most of the restaurants, shops, and bars were. I recommend trying out a massage as they are a good value compare to  North america.

The trendy Ku de Tah bar that I had heard so much about was not that much further away from Seminyak Square. First we decided to walk to the beachfront. We decided to detour in a hotel resort, which was pretty luxurious and gave us access to the beach. After we went to the Ku De Tah. It had no cover and it was surprisingly trendy, family friendly, and hip at the same time. A DJ played music in the background as my friend and I ordered an overpriced weak cocktail and sat by the beach.

To get around it is a good idea to hire a driver. Our car broke down after getting our sim car and had to get another taxi back to the hotel. Make sure you negotiate your cab fare first as we made the mistake of getting in and finding out we were overcharged once we arrived at the hotel. There was a huge argument between us, the driver, and the hotel who had organized the driver. In the end the hotel covered the fare, which I think is fare. Anyhow, lesson learned take only bluebird taxis and negotiate the fare before you get in. Getting a sim card for my unlocked phone was also super difficult, and almost not worth the trouble to get connected. The day after I got my sim card it ran out of data. The sim card vendors don’t speak english and we had to rely on our driver for translation. Even then something obviously got lost in translation.

We salvaged the day by checking out the Legian beach, which is between Seminyak and Kuta. The beach sand is not that great, but it is bearable and the waves were decent enough for surfing. There are some good choices for lunch near the beach and the sunset was spectacular.

Later that night we decided to sample the Kuta night life. We saw the memorial dedicated to the tourists who were killed during the terrorist bombing incident. This is the central part of the strip where you will be see rows of bars all down the street. We found all the bars pretty tacky with watered down drinks. The most interesting bar was the Reggae themed Apache Reggae bar which had live reggae music where the crowd could dance and have a seat.

The next day our driver picked us up. We asked to go to the cultural town of Ubud, see some rice terraces, and go to the Mother Temple of Besakih. This took up our entire day. The highlight for me was the a coffee tour we got to see the kopi luwak coffee. It is the boutique coffee that is made from the poop of a cat. We got to see how the coffee was made and sample it after. In the same area we got to see some rice terraces.

Many hours later we arrived at the mother temple. We had to purchase a sarong, which I later found out was a rental fee as they take it back. The sarongs were 300,000rp I believe so try bring your own. We got a good guide who took us right to the top. The weather wasn’t too great but we made it to the mother of all temples in Bali!

Next: I talk about our journey from Bali to the town of Labuan Bajo where I’ll do some scuba diving and we go in search of the Komodo dragons.

Taiwan lantern Festival 2014 Pingxi – Valentines day

taiwan lantern festival 2014
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur originally from Vancouver, Canada

pingxi2014

My local Taiwanese friend Serena told me about the Chinese New Year lantern festival. I looked at the official page and saw that it was held in Pingxi district on Valentines Day. I was debating for days whether to go or not due to the weather. I wasn’t even sure the lanterns would still be able to fly with the rain.  I posted a message on their facebook page, and got a response that the lanterns  would be able to fly! After watching some of the past pingxi videos I thought I could produce a quality video that was different from the ones in the past.

The weather websites forecasted heavy rain so I packed a large umbrella and our camera gear. We took the train from Taipei Main station to Ruifang and from there we transferred to Pingxi. I’m glad that Serena helped me because catching the trains to Pingxi was a confusing process due to train delays, mostly schedules in chinese, and misinformation. We met some people that were going there as well and pretty much followed them there.

It was heavy rain as predicted when we arrived about 20 minutes before 9pm. We purchased the rain suits to wear over our clothes. The show ended early around 9pm and we rushed to catch the last show. As we were nearing the site, we saw the last batch of lanterns go up without warning. We manage to catch some footage of them, but the wet conditions slowed me down.  I had to use some past footage of the lanterns to keep the flow of the video

We were disappointed, but manage to find a tent where they were letting lanterns off individually. This was a blessing in disguise because it gave us an opportunity to talk to some people who were kind enough to talk about their lanterns. As you can see in the video the lanterns go up very quickly. The people we spoke to were genuine, and it was great to people to connect with them on a more intimate level.

It was miserable weather and with the weather it was very difficult conditions to film. However, the genuine happiness from the people we spoke to from the people we spoke to helped to lift our spirits.

taiwan lantern festival 2014

We hope you enjoy this video that gives you a different perspective into the pingxi lantern festival than some of the videos in the past have.

 

Video highlights

00:007 train journey to pingxi

00:30 first lantern launch

00:44 – first interview with couple creating their lanterns

01:34 French man explains his side of the lantern

02:36 couple gets ready to launch their lantern

3:03 – Singaporean couple talk about their valentine lantern and share info

04:25 – a local Taiwanese pair explain their lantern

5:17 – Taiwanese pair light up their lantern

5:33 – Lanterns rise to the sky

 

Produced and filmed by Greg Hung for ChicVoyage Productions

Big thanks to Serena Hsu

 

Some footage of lanterns from the 2012 Pingxi Festival courtesy of:

 

https://vimeo.com/36752441 (Cory Wright)

 

https://vimeo.com/36219932 (hamish dudley)

 

 

Music By:

 

ichigo vizards

FAR ASIAN FANTASIA

 

Alas Media

Chime-Remix

 

 

 

Why I relocated my life from Canada to Taiwan and what you can learn from my experience Page 2

Taiwan working holiday

The Taiwanese people

– I have traveled to such cities in Asia such as Shanghai, Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Guangzhou. Of these cities in general I prefer the Taiwanese people. They are generally honest, trustworthy, respectful, and friendly. Coming from a western background I really appreciate these qualities that you cannot expect throughout Asia. I knew I was going to deal with a large language barrier gap, and with it a vulnerability that the Taiwanese wouldn’t try to take advantage of. Well at least I hoped.

  • Safe & clean

    Generally Taipei is a very clean city. The upscale areas such as Xinyi tend to be the cleanest with some local suburbs still being clean, but not to the same extent. Public transport stations on their underground train (the MRT) are very clean. Coming from Vancouver and Singapore it is easy to take this for granted. The only danger I have experienced is while crossing the street looking out for crazy scooter and bus drivers, but generally you can walk in Taipei even until late at night without worrying about being in danger. After traveling to South Africa I appreciate the peace of mind and countries where I can look at my smartphone without being worried about being robbed.

    Taipei's metro system known as the "MRT"
    Taipei’s metro system known as the “MRT”

 

 

  • Public transport

    The MRT system and facilities here are top notch. They use the contactless card for payment entry and the service is fast, extensive and reliable. Taipei is the only city I know that offers designated plug and usb outlets for charging phones and devices at their stations. Almost every station has a clean bathroom and well-labeled exits. Taipei also offers an easy to use bike rental program with quality equipment, plenty of bike stations for free 30 minute use.

 

IMG_0659
Taipei, Taiwan is a modern global city
  • Modern

    – I knew Taipei was a modern developed city in Asia that offered a good standard of living, good transportation, and was an Internet friendly city.

  • Geographic location

    – Geographically I like to think of Taiwan as the heart of Asia. It is nearby to Hong Kong, Shanghai, South Korea and not too far away from Malaysia, Japan, Phillipines, and In Indonesia.

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 4.33.42 PM

Under 2 hours to Hong Kong

About 2 hours to Shanghai

Under 3 hours to Seoul, Korea

 

  • Low cost of living

    compared to Western standards things like food, transport, and accommodation cost less. My private studio in Jingan apartment was small, but it was private and cost me close to $440 US dollars a month and included internet, washing machine, and furniture. I was also prepared to pay 21,000nt or $700US for my very first apartment in Jingan, but I quickly found out after arriving that this was too expensive. (太 贵 了!)

  • Food

    Home to Taiwanese beef noodles, Xiao long bao, bubble tea, and many other great foods. A good bowl of Beef noodles can be found for 90NT or $3US.

  • Visa friendly

    Canada had an arrangement with Taiwan called a working holiday visa. This was was relatively straightforward to obtain and allowed me to legally live, work, and study in Taiwan for up to a year. This isn’t available in every country and there are some age limit restrictions ranging from 35 to 30 depending on the country. The working holiday visa option was an amazing opportunity to gain a rich cultural experience. Read more about working holidays here.

Now that you know why I moved to Taiwan. In my next article I’ll share some experiences and what I have actually observed and learned from living and studying here in my first 3 months. Some things I’ll discuss:

  • How was the experience of learning chinese in Taipei at the MTC ?
  • Could I build a life and friends in Taipei and what adventures did I have ?
  • How did I survive and figure out the basics such as how to eat and find a place to live ?
  • Was Taiwan what I thought it would be?
xiao long bao 小笼包- soup pork dumplings are a taiwan favourite
xiao long bao 小笼包- soup pork dumplings are a taiwan favourite

 

IMG_0664
One of my street food favorites on Yong Kang street.

 

Why I relocated my life from Canada to Taiwan and what you can learn from my experience Page 1

Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur originally from Vancouver, Canada

Welcome to a series of posts where I’m going to share some of my experiences and what I’ve learned in my 4 months of living in Taiwan. Before we get started I’ll provide a little background and explain my reasons for relocating. You may be interested in this article if you are:

  • Interested in learning Chinese abroad
  • You are thinking of pursuing a working holiday and want to learn useful information on Taipei, Taiwan
  • Lifestyle redesign – You are tired of working a 9am to 5pm job and are curious if there is an alternative life you can create for yourself
  • You are a travel enthusiast and are curious about new travel experiences

Travel can be a life changing experience. My first trip to Europe led me to finally move out of my parents place in Vancouver, BC Canada at 29 years old and started me down a path of independence. 6 years and many trips later I sit in a cozy modern café near downtown Taipei listening to jazz music while I type this blog out.  Travel opens your eyes and mind to the way that other people on this planet live. Sometimes we get stuck in the world that we live in and we forget that there are alternatives to what we know.

IMG_0848
My trip to Europe in 2007 ignited my independence and opened my eyes

What I’ve found in the past two years of frequent travel is that visiting a place for 3 days to a week to visit and take pictures of tourist attractions was just scratching the surface. It was too rushed. It wasn’t as gratifying anymore. I felt that I was trying to cram everything in a short period to make the best use of the time.  I felt that that I wasn’t really getting to know the city like a local. When you are working as an employee you think of travel as a vacation. Perhaps a 5 day trip to take a break from the 9 to 5pm before returning with tons of pictures and stories to share with friends and colleagues. I think this is the most common travel experience.

What if there was something else?  Another way to experience travel other than visiting tourist attractions, hotels, tours and cramming in some parties for the weekend? What about relocating your life to learn the language of a foreign country for 3 months or longer? Perhaps you can even work a little and make some friends. If you’re interested to hear more then keep reading!

A little background

I arrived in Taoyuan airport Taipei on August 23 2013. To make my life a little easier I had arranged for a driver to take me to the apartment where I would be staying for a short while. I was driven to the suburb of Jingan in the district of Zhonghe, New Taipei City. The rain was coming down like a flood putting my electronic gear at risk. We pulled into an alley with older apartments and bar lined windows. We opened the metallic doors that led to a dark staircase. I was fortunate to have some help carrying my heaving luggage up those 5 flights of stairs. Finally we reached my apartment. I sank down on my bed and set my alarm for a short nap

The early days - my cozy Jingan apartment
The early days – My Jingan apartment for my first 3 months

It has been just over 3 months since I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan to study, live, and attempt to build a new life. I essentially traded a comfortable lifestyle in my home of Vancouver, BC Canada for some 2013 travel film adventures and this opportunity. I started off in Taipei with some suitcases, my dreams, a few contacts, and film content and gear.

Why Taiwan?

This is one of the most popular questions that I am asked by people in Taipei and there are many reasons for my decision.

I will list my reasons for selecting Taiwan and what I have actually experienced in my 3 months here.

BSjqD7TCIAMNQdq.jpg_large
Registration for the school (MTC) I would be studying chinese

 

Learn Mandarin (chinese)

Chinese environment

This was the probably the most important reason for me coming here. It was a long-term goal I’ve had for myself. I’ve tried to tackle learning mandarin through classes in Vancouver, Rosetta stone, podcasts, and spending time with my Taiwanese friends. My progress was dismal and I got my butt kicked by Mandarin. I’m a self-motivated person, but If I was to tackle this challenging goal I wanted to go all in and give myself a better chance.  I’m sure there is more than one way to learn the language, but this is the path that I chose.

I also knew from my first visit that Taipei was predominantly a mandarin chinese-speaking city, which offered an opportunity to practice chinese daily.

I chose the local suburb of Jingan, Zhonghe for my first 3 months in Taiwan
I chose the local suburb of Jingan, Zhonghe for my first 3 months in Taiwan

My original plan was to live in a local area not to far away from school to force myself to interact with Chinese speaking locals.

Great school to learn Mandarin

Taipei was also home to the Mandarin Training Center run by the National Taiwan Normal University Mandarin Training Center. Wikipedia claims that MTC is one of the world’s oldest and most distinguished programs for Chinese as a second language. I had a friend that had lived and learned mandarin at the MTC better known locally as “Shida”, which is how I found out about the school

BSfNJwtCMAAYNq9.jpg_large
An example of how the chinese environment would encourage one to learn chinese. It is common to not have an english menu at some restaurants in Taipei

 

  • Taiwanese friends and previous exposure to Taiwan and culture

    – One of my best friends Allen, is Taiwanese. We met in Vancouver and I eventually became more immersed in the Taiwanese culture there.  He had introduced me to some local friends of his, which would definitely help get my start in a new country.

IMG_0890
2011 Taipei trip. One of my best friends Allen (beside me) help introduce to me some of his local Taiwanese friends

 

Having some local friends has made Taipei a better experience
Having some local friends has made Taipei a better experience

Prior Visit

  • Prior Visit This is a continuation from the previous point. In January 2012 Allen invited friends and myself for his wedding in Taipei.  Prior to my visit I really didn’t know what Taiwan was like. I think this visit was influential to my decision and minimize the uncertainty I had about Taiwan. As I know not everyone will have this opportunity hopefully I can remove some of that uncertainty for you through my blog and I also shot a modern travel adventure documentary on Asia entitled ChicVoyage in Asia for sale.

Page 2

South Africa review 2013 – a tourist in my motherland

Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur



Greg is a former corporate  IT Manager and Business Lead from Vancouver, BC in Canada inspired during his MBA program to take a risk and follow his heart and passions. He is a modern World Explorer, Film-maker, Mobile & Google friendly Website producer, & Entrepreneur at the intersection of travel and technology. He has directed, shot, edited, and produced over 30 high definition travel and lifestyle related videos on Youtube in addition to producing ChicVoyage in Asia – modern travel adventures on the Amazon.com store in 2012. He has been instructed by globally renown SLR Director and film-maker Phillip Bloom. His 4 month 2013 journey took him to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The next journey is currently in progress with a return to Asia where is currently living and studying Mandarin in Taiwan. His vision for his family of travel companies called Chicvoyagegroup is to “inspire the world to travel and explore”

As someone who was originally born in South Africa with local relatives, but who has spent more of their adult life being raised in Canada I plan to offer a unique perspective on my homeland.

After 2 months of filming and traveling in Hawaii and Australia I would have been happy with the video and pictures I had captured for the year. Fortunately shortly before I left for Australia I was invited to accompany my grandmother from Singapore to South Africa.  This would be a great opportunity to help my grandmother and revisit my home country at an age where I could appreciate it.

My last trip to South Africa was in 2001. I had spent time with my good family South African friends Leanne and Melissa while traveling through Australia. They had armed me with some inside information and suggested I turn on my South African accent to blend in with the locals.

South Africa Review

Good for

  • Weather – The weather is almost always perfect. Sunny and dry most of the time.
  • Value  – The South African currency is weak compared to Western currencies offering great value to Western visitors
  • Lifestyle – Capetown offers the best lifestyle being a scenic waterfront city with the beautiful mountain backdrop. Rent an apartment here and indulge in the wines of Stellenbosh, the cafe’s, and foods at great value.
  • Foods – South African’s have their own local specialties like Biltong, Marie biscuits, and great local wine like Nedeberg. You also have western foods like Shepherds pie, Cornish pastries, lasagna, spaghetti bolognese.

Cons

  • Safety concerns – Be careful in areas in Johannesburg especially at night. Capetown and Kruger National Park are safer.
  • Car City – South Africa still requires a car to get around

South Africa is a country that can offer a great lifestyle, weather, and value to visitors. There are some friendly down to earth people that I met while I this country. The tradeoff is the safety that comes with a huge gap between the poor and wealthy. Nelson Mandela has done much for this country and put South Africa on the map. I hope you enjoyed this original coverage of South Africa 2013, which I dedicate to my late Grand mother on my mother’s side who passed away days before I arrived on this trip. Thanks to my Dad’s mother (my Grand mother) for making this trip possible, my parents, my cousins in Pretoria & Sandton, my uncle Edmund, and family friends for their help during this trip. If you read down this far then wait until you see the video. I guarantee I’m going to show you something special!

 

South Africa review 2013
Capetown Table mountain

 

South Africa review 2013
The journey in South Africa 2013

 

A usable 10 day itinerary to South Africa

Day 1

  • check in at hotel near Sandton City, Johannesburg. The Radisson blu offers a convenient location
  • Have dinner at hotel or Sandton

Day 2

  • Have breakfast and coffee at Mugg and Bean at Sandton City
  • Take the Gautrain to Rosebank Mall and have lunch
  • Back to Sandton City for dinner

Day 3

  • Do a big bus tour to take you around Johannesburg

Day 4

  • Fly from Joburg to Neilspruit for Kruger National Park Safari
  • Self-drive to skukuza camp for 1 night

Day 5

  • Drive to Olifant Camp and sight see along the way
  • Stay at Olifant Camp and check in
  • Do a night safari

Day 6

  • Self drive to Sight see

Day 7

  • Drive to Neilspruit Airport from Kruger national Park
  • Fly out to Capetown from Kruger National Park

Day 8

  • Check in at the your accommodation. Suggestion for view of Table Mountain (Flatrock Apartments) or Airbnb

Day 9

  • Breakfast at the V & A Waterfront
  • Do the Robben Island Tour

Day 10

  • Visit Table Mountain to sight-see
  • Drive out to Stellenbosch to visit Wine country and do a wine-tasting

Day 11

  • Take a drive out to Camps Bay and Chapmans Peak to enjoy the beach and the scenery

Day 12

  • Flight back to Tambo airport in Joburg and home

[nggallery id=19]

 

E-kindle Amazon book now Available

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ORUOXO8

This is a true travel adventure in South Africa that took place in 2013 that shares travel tips and nuggets as the story unfolds

Greg Hung goes on a special travel adventure to visit his family and film Johannesburg, Cape Town, and the Kruger National Park.

Greg offers a unique perspective having lived the first 10 years of his life in Johannesburg South Africa and having access to the local knowledge of local relatives.

Highlights of the book include:
-Sampling the Gautrain to visit Sandton City and even the Joburg Airport
– Living at a private apartment near Long street overlooking Table Mountain
– Visiting the wineries at Stellenbosch
– Making new friends on the Robben Island Tour and a night out on the town in Cape Town
– Visits to Sandton City, Rosebank, and Melrose Square
– A BMW drive through the ghetto of Hillbrow
– A stay at the Satara rest camp at the Kruger National Park, night safari, and photo hunting for African elephants, giraffes, and lions

 

The Great Barrier Reef – Cairns

Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur

Greg is a modern World Explorer, Film-maker, Mobile & Google friendly Website producer, & Entrepreneur at the intersection of travel and technology. He has directed, shot, edited, and produced over 30 high definition travel and lifestyle related videos on Youtube in addition to producing ChicVoyage in Asia – modern travel adventures on the Amazon.com store in 2012. He has been instructed by globally renown SLR Director and film-maker Phillip Bloom. His 4 month 2013 journey took him to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He is currently studying Mandarin in Taiwan.

The Great Barrier Reef – Cairns

I landed in Australia on May 8th and now it was June 19th 2013. My Australian tour was finally coming to a close in the town of Cairns, Australia to visit the Great Barrier Reef.  I had survived the super high prices of Australia, driving on the other side of the road, and the baggage delays of Jetstar airlines. Before arriving here I had seen the aerial shots of turquoise blue ocean with cays surrounded by coral. What was the experience actually like?

When I originally planned the trip I failed to recognize that it was winter in Cairns during late June. My airbnb host confirmed this was actually the best time to come as the weather is not too hot and not too wet.

Great barrier reef cairns
The weather in Cairns for the week of June 19th

 

I arrived in the airport and picked up my car rental. It was a nice hot day in the mid to high twenties and I used the google maps GPS to head straight towards my Airbnb private room. The location would be at a cozy space located a 10 minute drive from the town of Cairns. The pictures matched the Airbnb property and I found the keys and let myself in.  I would be sharing a private room from a local couple. I quickly brought my luggage in and immediately took a short nap. When I woke up I heard some conversation. I had a chance to meet the boyfriend. You come to the Great Barrier Reef for one main reason and that is to scuba dive or at least snorkel.  He gave me some ideas about planning my trip and I agreed it was best to go to town to do some investigation. He also suggested doing a road trip north up to Daintree to Cape Tribulation where rainforest meets the beach. Later on in the trip the couple left for Brisbane leaving with the house to myself. Airbnb is really based on trust, and Australia has plenty of it.

Great barrier reef cairns
My private room in my Cairns, Airbnb rental

The town of Cairns is very small and you will most likely end up on the main street called Esplanade. Not far from there is the Cairns park and promenade. It’s worth going for a walk on the promenade or to check out the people barbequing or sunbathing. Esplanade and surrounding area is lined with restaurants and a popular dive shop called Tusa. The other dive shops will be near the Pier or one of the main streets south of Esplanade so I recommend parking on Esplanade street and walking around. It’s worth visiting the tourist information office on Esplanade, but make sure you go to the official one.  Each dive shop offers a different experience, and I’m sure they are all good otherwise they wouldn’t be in business still . I had particular needs as I needed to film and wanted good customer service, knowledgeable staff, good equipment, transparency, a smaller boat, and fair prices. Tusa seemed to have larger boats and I had the impression I would be on a party boat full of backpackers.  After shopping around town, researching on trip advisor I decided to go with seastarcruises. They had a clear plan of where they planned to dive and snorkel. We would be snorkeling at Michaelmas Cay and I would be doing 2 scuba dives at the Hastings Reef, which I understood to be at the outer barrier reef.

Great barrier reef cairns
the boardwalk (promenade) at Cairns in the evening
Great barrier reef cairns
the boardwalk (promenade) at Cairns

 

Seasick tablets and preparation for filming underwater

I read on trip advisor that many people got sick on the way to their great barrier reef dives. I decided to get myself some seasick tablets near the local Woolworths. I also had to do some hunting around for the best solution to film underwater video at the Great Barrier Reef without a mega budget. I went around the town of Cairns to ask the experts. In short a dry bag for the SLR will not go deep enough and the SLR housing is too expensive and can only be purchased. I settled on using my go pro 3 with some modifications at the advice of one of the shop experts. Read my article if you want to learn more.

Great barrier reef cairns
My custom made pvc mount for filming underwater

The big dive

I packed the following things to bring on the boat. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance. I mean this was one of the major highlights of my entire Australia trip riding on a single day experience. Here was my packing list.

  • Trip-pod
  • 2 camera’s with fresh memory cards and batteries
  • towel
  • dry shorts, t-shirt, and underwear
  • sandals
  • sunscreen
  • sunglasses
  • Go pro and 2 batteries with extra memory card
  • Custom Go pro support
  • Banana
  • Cell phone
  • Coffee
  • a liter of bottled water

The dive starts first thing in the morning. I recommend skipping any ideas about going to the bar especially if you scuba diving. I walked to the pier and was immediately greet with a warm welcome and friendly staff.

Great barrier reef cairns
Looking for my boat at the Pier

I found a seat and we got an introduction to the staff and were on our way. I took my sea sick pill prior, but it wasn’t working and I began to feel sick. I was taken to the back of the boat and asked to chew on some ice and look at land apparently to give me a better sense of balance. There was a nice English girl that helped me through this, and sat with me the whole time I was sick. This small gesture meant a lot to me. Thanks

Great barrier reef cairns
our boat to fit 35 people

We arrived at michaelmas cay for our snorkel and the crew was nice enough to help transport my camera gear in a water proof container. We took a smaller motorized raft boat to the island and I took some photos before doing a snorkel. Most of the people in the group were beginners so I was able to keep pace with our group leader. The snorkel itself had some decent photo and video opportunities that you can see in the videos. The cay itself is roped off but there is a small part of the beach you can walk around and take pictures

Great barrier reef cairns
a view michaelmas-cay behind us as we snorkel
Great barrier reef cairns
snorkeling at michaelmas cay

Hastings Reef

There were a total of 4 people including myself on our dive group. This was great as smaller groups are better, and our dive master was nice and had great communication skills. He was also interested in my go pro filming attachment, and helped me film throughout the day. The dive itself was great. A lot of rich sea life near he the coral, the dive master took care of us, and I enjoyed diving off the raft navy seal style for the second dive. The entire experience was what I call 5 star. The staff were friendly and the equipment was good quality. I will refer you to the upcoming video.

Great barrier reef cairns
The great barrier reef. This is it

After the dives we headed back to shore and as these were my final dives for the trip I enjoyed a couple of beers and chatted with an American couple about their recent honeymoon to Kruger national park in South Africa. This conversation actually resulted in me planning a trip there.

Great barrier reef cairns
Our dive master shows us a sea cucumber
Great barrier reef cairns
my dive log

Cape Tribulation

I had a free day to do a road trip out of the city and decided to do it at Cape Tribulation. It was a long drive out of town and took me to the Daintree forest. I had to cross a crocodile infested river via a car ferry to the other side. Part of the drive was through forest and other parts are scenic and along the coast. The reward was finally making it to the Cape tribulation beach area. There is a scenic point where I was rewarded with a rare beach, mountain, and rain forest landscape. I took a few pictures and did my last video interview for the trip.

Great barrier reef cairns
A great ending to the Australia Tour at Cape Tribulation

Tip: If you just plan to dive and not take any road trips I recommend staying closer to the town of Cairns.

Wrap-up and some learned wisdom

The Australia tour was over, but the journey was just beginning. I know it’s cliché, but this was a great trip, and I was fortunate to capture some great stuff and some experiences that will last a lifetime. In order to survive in Australia this country taught me to be extremely frugal and to make the most of what I had. I avoided $5 starbucks coffees and chose local coffees for $3.50 that were even stronger and tastier. I eventually got a coffee travel french press and got a bag of coffee to save further. I stayed in airbnb places that had kitchens and shopped at woolworths for groceries. There are some excellent experiences that you don’t need to pay much for. Doing a hike at Sydney’s coastal walk or walking across the Harbour Bridge. You can still enjoy life a little. Australia offers great wine and the prices for their bottles were quite reasonable compared to other countries. Enjoying the local goods that a country can offer often will mean you will pay less for good quality.

The only thing that could have made improved this trip would be to have the right travel partner during the whole trip to share it with. On the positive side I was lucky to have some friends in Brisbane and Melbourne, and make some friends along the way. I learned that Meetups are one good way to meet people in a new city. Before the trip I had thoughts of relocating my life to this country and traveling as a full-time lifestyle.

I learned that although some of Australia’s destinations have a lot to offer my heart was taking me in a different direction for now. After traveling with my equipment I had removed any thought of traveling full-time as a lifestyle. I had sold all my possessions in Vancouver and put my life in 2 suitcases, a camera bag, and backpack. Although I had proved I had everything I needed to live in these bags I would need a base and a place in the world to call home for a while. I had traveled and lived almost exclusively in Airbnb properties with the local hosts. This was not hotel travel and this was not a hostel experience. It’s kind of like staying with some friendly room-mates that most likely enjoy travel in a local neighborhood. It was a major factor to help improve my experience as a solo traveler. Just when I thought this adventure could not be topped my upcoming journey ahead had a stop in Singapore for a couple of days before revisiting my homeland South Africa.

[nggallery id=18]

5 days visiting Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, & the Gold Coast

Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur

Greg is a modern World Explorer, Film-maker, Mobile & Google friendly Website producer, & Entrepreneur at the intersection of travel and technology. He has directed, shot, edited, and produced over 30 high definition travel and lifestyle related videos on Youtube in addition to producing ChicVoyage in Asia – modern travel adventures on the Amazon.com store in 2012. He has been instructed by globally renown SLR Director and film-maker Phillip Bloom. His 4 month 2013 journey took him to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He is currently studying Mandarin in Taiwan.

5 days visiting Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, & the Gold Coast

An aerial view of Brisbane

The price for going out on Friday night and my early morning flight meant I got almost no sleep heading to Brisbane. Fortunately I had a good family friend Leanne that picked me up from the airport and took me to where I was staying in South Bank. The space I chose for my stay would be a top floor euro style apartment in South Bank with a huge patio deck. The host of the apartment was cool, and my room opened up to a huge patio with a table and a view of the South bank. South bank is known as the entertainment district of Brisbane. It is quite central to attractions, transportation, and the CBD.

south-bank-from-patio
A shot South Bank from the patio of my apartment

Sunshine Coast

sunshine coast

sunshine coast
The warmth of the sunshine coast beach nearing sunset is incredible

Leanne and I began our adventure traveling to the Sunshine Coast, a popular recommendation I received from Australian locals throughout my time in the country. We stopped by the town of Noosa an upscale area with expensive options to eat and shop. There are some reasonable options to eat if you can find the food court or a subway.  The main attraction was the beautiful beach and coastal walk and the of course the sunshine. The sunshine here is invigorating and amazing.

South Bank

Almost every day was a sunny 19 degrees Celsius in Brisbane, which was a major factor in a positive experience in this city especially during the winter. I walked to the South Bank area, which is an entertainment district close to the river. The lifestyle features a large path for walking, jogging and cycling by the river and plenty of places to sit, eat and relax.

south bank lifestyle
The south bank active lifestyle in brisbane
South Bank beach
The South Bank beach

The public transport is good with bike rentals in the city and a smart card system called a go card for trains, buses, and their boats. Their boats are a good form of fast transportation. They look like serious boats, and provide functional transportation along the river.

map of brisbane
a visual map of brisbane

getting around by boat in Brisbane

Tip: you can even return your go card after your visit for some money back

The city is noticeably smaller and less international than Melbourne and Sydney, but as a Chinese Canadian I felt welcome in the city at all times. The roads are narrow, hilly, and generally confusing if you drive outside of the city. We had a chance to venture into a Brisbane small upscale neighborhood called Paddington. At Paddington we went to visit the Java Cafe for a good lunch.

breakfast-brisbane
Brisbane breakfast at the Java cafe

[imagebrowser id=17]

Gold Coast

gold-coast-beach

We went to visit the Gold Coast and stopped at Palm beach which had a wonderful beach with a view of the gold coast skyline. I didn’t spend that much time in the actual city of the Gold coast, but it looked heavily developed with many buildings that can be seen in the landscape.

A pleasant surprise was seeing the Palazo Versace hotel, which I was aware of prior to my trip but I forgot it was right here in the Gold Coast. We manage to get some photos inside without denting our wallets.

Palazzo Versace Australia
Inside Palazzo Versace Australia

My time in Brisbane was short. I think that this city’s weather, growing skyline, and nearby beaches and lifestyle have something compelling to offer. Time will tell where Brisbane is going, but my sense is that it is up and coming and deserves serious consideration to live for the sunny and laidback lifestyle. Thanks to my good friend Leanne for showing me around and helping out! There would be one more stop on the Australia tour. Next stop Cairns to experience the great Barrier Reef.

A sample itinerary in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, and Gold Coast

recommended to hire a car

Day 1

  • Settle in and take a day trip out to the Sunshine Coast
  • Visit the area of Noosa for lunch
  • Walk along coastal walk to take pictures and visit the beach around sunset time
  • Dinner at the sunshine coast

Day 2

  • Visit the area of South Bank to take a walk along the promenade
  • Pick up a lunch near the street pool and have your lunch near there
  • Take a boat to visit the downtown area
  • Walk around the downtown area and take a boat back
  • Dinner at the West End neighborhood

Day 3

  • Visit Mt Cot-tha lookout to aerial pictures of Brisbane
  • Have lunch at Paddington’s Java Cafe
  • Take a drive out to the Gold Coast
  • At the Gold Coast visit Palm beach to walk along the beach
  • Have dinner at the Palm Beach club
  • Drive around the Gold Coast downtown area
  • Visit the Versace Hotel
versace-hotel-gold-coast
versace-hotel-gold-coast

 

 

Journey in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast, and Brisbane

 

Adelaide Australia is a must do wine vacation

Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur
Greg Hung World explorer, film-maker & entrepreneur

Greg is a modern World Explorer, Film-maker, Mobile & Google friendly Website producer, & Entrepreneur at the intersection of travel and technology. He has directed, shot, edited, and produced over 30 high definition travel and lifestyle related videos on Youtube in addition to producing ChicVoyage in Asia – modern travel adventures on the Amazon.com store in 2012. He has been instructed by globally renown SLR Director and film-maker Phillip Bloom. His 4 month 2013 journey took him to Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

Adelaide Australia is a must do wine vacation

I arrived in the city of Adelaide, also known as wine country. Before I booked my trip my research had revealed that many of the better-known Australian Wine brands are located in the Adelaide’s Barossa Valley. Jacob’s Creek, Penfolds, Peter Lehmann, Wolf Blass, Two Hands Wines, and Yalumba  are just some of the wineries available in the valley. What most people may not know is that Adelaide was ranked in the top 5 of the EIU’s most livable cities. When I have travel discussions that involve Australia it is very rare that Adelaide enters the discussion. It is the higher profile cities such as Sydney, Gold Coast, and Melbourne that often take the spotlight. I believe wine is something special that Australia has to offer the travel and Adelaide is the right Australian destination to explore that offering.

Adelaide is a smaller city than Sydney and Melbourne and requires that you rent a car especially if you are going to wine country. I also recommend getting a GPS or a sim card for your smart phone with Google maps.

[imagebrowser id=16]

I was in need of some sleep as I woke up at 3am in Melbourne to catch this flight. I would be staying at a modern apartment that I found through airbnb with a pair of local girls. I reached the apartment with no issues and I received a warm welcome from my hosts. I was quickly shown to my room and was happy to see that it was nice, clean and spacious. I took a nap right away.

Adelaide Sunrise
The sunrise at Adelaide airport. A good start

Mount Lofty & Cleland Conservation Park

When I woke up I didn’t have much time to plan as the day was half way gone, but my hosts helped me plan an efficient schedule with the time I had left. It was midday and I didn’t have enough time to make it out to the wine country so I planned to get some aerial shots at mount lofty and see some koala’s, kangaroo’s at Cleland Conservation Park. Both locations were located nearby each other so I was actually able to visit both. In fact, I was able to visit Mount Lofty during the day and after sunset.

I pulled into the Mount Lofty parking area. As I didn’t want to pay for parking I parked on the side road where I saw other cars parked. I walked to the viewpoint and took some shots. It’s a good viewpoint and attracted many people.

Mount Lofty
A view from Mount Lofty during Sunset

The highlight of this day was Cleland Conservation Park. I paid for my ticket and headed straight for the star of this park, which was the Koala.

Tip: You will meet many kangaroo’s that are not shy of people, but there is only a limited time to see the koalas so see them first. I had heard that koala’s can sleep somewhere around 21-22 hours in a day so if you have a chance to see a koala awake its a precious moment.

I had a chance to take a picture with a koala and pet him and ask some questions of his caretaker.

Cleland national park
Picture time with a rare lighter coated kangeroo

There were even more koala’s nearby the viewing area that I took pictures of. You’ll get your koala fix at this park for sure.

After the koala’s I had some time so I planned to see the dingoes, wombats, and more kangaroos and some other animals long the way. The park provided me with a good visual map and it was easy enough to get around the park. It’s huge and I doubt you will be disappointed. I stayed right until sunset and then headed back to Mount Lofty for some sunset shots. I was satisfied with how I salvaged the day.

Up close with a koala. This could be you.

tip: expect to spend your first day settling into your destination and planning it out if you can. If you can squeeze a few things on the itinerary that’s great, but if you plan a compressed trip with everything crammed into 2-3 days you’re setting yourself up for a poor experience.

lanzou-beef-noodles
lanzou-beef-noodles in Adelaide!

[nggallery id=16]

It was a long day and I wanted to eat out tonight even though I had access to a kitchen. I went to Gouger Street, which is in downtown Adelaide, but the area had a town feel to it. Here you will find a cluster of mainly Asian restaurants offering good food at good prices. I went to a shop called the noodle kingdom and ordered a $10 Lanzhou Beef Noodle soup. I was pleasantly surprised to find this dish, as something like this in large asian city like Vancouver still requires some hunting. It was actually good quality

Day 2-3 – The Barossa Valley

This italian cafe is a perfect stop before hitting up wine country. $5 fresh panini's

I picked up a couple of fresh $5 Panini’s and refreshments before embarking on my wine trip. I elected to drive myself for more flexibility and time to film. I had no problem finding my first winery called Yalumba. Yalumba enjoys good brand recognition in Vancouver and I was very pleased that they were willing to co-operate with my filming request of the wine tasting experience. I will leave it to the video to showcase it. Yalumba provided plenty of time, water, and even a fresh coffee.

I took some time to rest and eat my Panini’s before heading out to my next destination called Wolf Blass. You will find Wolf Blass on most of the shelves worldwide. They were just about closing, but I had a chance to do a rushed tasting before ending the day.

wolf-blass-hq
Wolf Blass Headquarters

I decided to return to Gouger St. to try a busy Sushi restaurant called Sushi train. It featured the conveyer belt, which is good way to preview the real life dishes, which I then order a la carte at the same price. The quality was good. I called it a night.

The next day I repeated the same routine and decided to visit Penfolds. I was treated to a very educational and enjoyable wine tasting experience here from a knowledgeable woman. My next stop was a recommendation from my host called Chateau Dorrien. From there I got a referral to visit a local popular restaurant/wine tasting spot called Maggie beer. My last stop was a unique winery called the Rockford. Check out the video for highlights of the experience.

Rockford Wineries
Rockford has a feel of a boutique winery that has an original decor and exceptional wines. Recommended by the local wineries in Barossa.

Overall, all the wineries were very friendly and offered free quality wine tastings. You are not pressured into buying anything, but if you do the prices you get here are a good deal with some wines they sell not available on the local bottle store shelves. I got a good wine education. Thanks to all the Barossa Valley’ wineries for their co-operation.

Day 4 – McLaren Vale – An education on Shiraz

McLaren Vale is a region south of Adelaide known for specializing in Shiraz variety of red wine. There wasn’t as much information available for me to plan my visit so I decided to head there and play it by ear. I came across a familiar winery in Stump Hill Shiraz and decided to pay a visit. I drove in the driveway for Stump Hill and heard a loud dog barking. This place did not look inviting and I could not see an entrance to any winery. It looked like a private house and I felt I was intruding and quickly left to get some information from the visitor center.

I managed to get a map and plenty of help from the visitor’s center. They were reluctant to recommend any particular wineries although I managed to persuade them to highlight some wineries that included a strong recommendation for Squid Ink Shiraz, which isn’t really on the map. I hope this map I’m posting helps you and I also want to point out that there is a Mclaren Vale app. I didn’t have a chance to use it, but if you do please share your feedback.

Mclaren Vale Wine Map

 

Mclaren Vale App

My first stop was squid ink. It was a small winery with a small office feel, but I was quickly greeted by a lady that introduced me to the manager that personally and patiently took me through their product lineup. I tasted one of the best Shiraz wines I’ve ever had. Check the video to see which one it was.

 

I also managed to visit the Woodstock estate and had an excellent experience with the lady being very generous taking me through the entire menu. I had to take a Panini break after this tasting. When I was ready to resume my tasting I decided to visit a unique winery called Chapel Hill, which was based in a former church. It was a beautiful setting and a rainbow had formed just before I arrived hopefully signaling that I had arrived at the pot of gold. A man greeted me and although it was almost closing time he took me through most of the menu and shared some good knowledge of the wines.

squid-ink-shiraz- mclaren vale

I missed Rosemount Wineries, which I was really looking forward to. I had no regrets as both Barossa and Mclaren Vale had treated me very well.

Tip: If you like a wine in any of these valley’s buy it while you are there.

Final day – visiting town and night out with my hosts

On my last day I decided to give myself a bit of a break and just visit the town of Adelaide. I took up a mini mission to get to Rundle Mall and took some shots in town. Some notable areas I visited were the Botanical Gardens and the National Wine Center, which are next door to each other. I didn’t really enjoy the Botanical gardens although some people might. The wine center didn’t offer any free tastings, but had some photo friendly educational exhibits upstairs. I would recommend your time would be better spent in town if it is limited. The town of Adelaide feels like a large town rather than a city, but check out the video to make your own judgement.

girls-of-adelaide
local Adelaide girls we met at Bath

At night I decided to cook dinner at home. After speaking with my hosts we agreed to head out for some drinks, as it was a Friday night. They took me to the area of Norwood to the Bath lounge which featured live music, a bar, and some seating in a modern atmosphere. One of the hosts bumped into her local friends and we ended up taking some photos. I had an early morning flight so we decided to head home after a couple of beers (after all that wine a beer was nice).

Final thoughts

I had a great time in Adelaide! The big draw is the wine country at Barossa Valley and Mclaren Vale. I consider myself a moderate wine enthusiast, which means I’m a bit more knowledgeable than the average person and enjoy all kinds of wine types from time to time. Any wine enthusiast or someone that enjoys wine and wants to learn more must definitely make the trip out here to experience the wine tasting and education you will get. So far I’ve found it incomparable to any wine country I’ve been to such as the Kelowna’s Okanagan valley, Nappa Valley, and Capetown’s Stellenbosch. In addition to the popular Australian brands I managed to find some smaller wineries in both valleys such as Rockford and Squid Ink that offered exceptional wines.

A key draw are the free tastings for some very high quality wines and friendly and welcoming staff. If you are planning to drink lots you might want to take a tour otherwise if you have a designated driver you can take advantage of a more personal experience.

A bonus for me was getting to see the koalas and kangaroo’s up close at Cleland national park. Out of all the destinations I visited in Australia this was the best spot for visiting them and getting the best photo opportunities. I made a good decision to stay with these friendly and knowledgeable locals on airbnb and renting a car. I’ve come to the conclusion that your experience is in great part shaped by your decisions on where you stay, spend your time, and who you spend it with. The destination will still offer what i can, but you have these things under your control so take the time to make some good decisions.

If you would really like to see an Adelaide video. Share how much you want it by commenting or sharing on social media. I have plenty of great content, but it takes a tone of time to produce a good video.  So show me some love.

Downtown Adelaide - rondle-st
Downtown Adelaide - rondle-st

Sample itinerary

Some spots I visited during my Adelaide trip

Day 1

Cleland National Park to see the animals
Photos at the Mount Loft Sunset
Asian Dinner at Gouger Street

Day 2 – 3
Barossa Valley for wine tasting and perhaps even dinner

The wine tasting at Maggie's
The wine tasting at Maggie's Barossa Valley

Day 4
Maclaren Vale to sample the shiraz

Day 5
Botanical Gardens
Visit Penfolds in town
Check out Rundle Street for some lunch or shopping
Drinks at the Bath hotel in Norwood